I never understood gifts on Father’s Day.
“Congratulations. You had a child. Here’s a lawn mower. Because…um…love…or something.”
What I wanted on Father’s Day was simple: time. Time for me, time for rest, time for a break.
So, I rested on my Father’s Day.
It felt like the irritable/uncomfortable type of rest, though. This was ‘my day’, dictated by Hallmark, and sponsored by The Home Depot. It was my American duty to do jack shit, watch the US Open, watch Phil Mickelson melt down, and curse at the TV when the Cubs blow another late-inning lead.
It’s what our Founding Fathers fought for…I think.
Between the shanks from the rough at Merion and the customary Carlos Marmol implosion, I began to grow restless.
‘Why am I angry? Why do I feel like this? Why does everything my wife and kids do annoy me?’
A wise man once told me that when the iron gets hot, you need to turn off the switch. So, I took a break. Walked around. Folded laundry.
I had to ask myself a simple question: ‘What do I really want from this day?’
Enter Jack; my four year old son with a penchant for wise words and reflective thought.
“Dad, when are we going to get more baseball cards?”
From 1987-1990 nothing resolved any downtrodden time quite like the gluttonous purchase of numerous packs of baseball cards.
If it resolved so many issues over so many years, it figured it would work again. So, I grabbed Jack, and off to the Target we went.
I’m not sure two guys get more hyped entering a Target than Jack and I.
Still, when I enter the Target, it’s imperative for me to cut a deal with Jack right from the get-go…if I don’t, I enter Jack’s ‘Thunderdome of Negotiation’; a place where many men enter, but few leave.
The ‘deal’ involves what packs we can purchase. I keep it simple, but heavy: two packs of baseball cards, two football, and one hockey. Three sticker packs of football, three sticker packs of baseball. If I don’t make a clear deal, Jack starts negotiating on getting $3 packs of college football draftees.
What can I say, he learned from the best.
(Special note: Every time we leave, I promise my wife we’ll come back with two packs of cards and one sticker pack. I’m 32. I like buying this stuff. I’m guilty…sorry, hun. No…check that…not sorry at all. Stickers and cards rule. I stand by my unwise spending habits!)
The look we get from the cashier is always the same: 1) ‘So, you’re the asshole dad that my son keeps talking about who buys thirty packs of cards for his kid at the store.’ 2) ‘Bullshit that’s for him! What a sad older man purchasing sports stickers for his son!’ 3) ‘If you were my husband, I’d ask you how you’re going to pay back these $16.’
No shred of guilt heaped upon me will deter this moment. None.
Upon return, we venture to the basement, far away from my wife. This is so she doesn’t see the, uh, one pack of baseball cards we purchased.
I’m not sure where you can rank ‘watching a four year old open a pack of baseball cards and reacting to the cards he got’ in the massive ‘Cute Shit Kids Do Index’. But I’d venture to say it’s ranked pretty high.
Jack doesn’t know the players, but he knows the teams. He likes the Cubs and Yankees…we get neither. He likes the Bears…no Bears.
The jackpot finally comes with the stickers. He gets two Bears and one Cubs guy. The excitement is akin to finding $20 in an old suit coat. “Woah! Dad! Look at this!”
We’re finally saved.
I take the moment to describe the players, and throw out cautionary tales. “See this, Jack? This is Starlin Castro. He’s gonna be playing on the Cubs when they’re contending for a title in a couple years.”
He’s a smart kid. He rolls his eyes and goes back to the stickers. Even he knows the Cubs are a lost cause.
When the cards have been organized, and the stickers have been placed, we move towards bath time.
At night, I’m in his room, looking at this kid; just turning four, and looking like me more every day. He’s starting to talk like me, make the same jokes, and play the same games. It’s scary.
It’s also thrilling. It’s lovely.
It creates a love that is so heavy, it can feel like a burden on the heart. I never want him to feel hurt or unloved. I never want him to feel pain.
Yet, I know that these things are impossible to shield.
So, I take simple days, create simple moments, and try to pass on little moments of love.
In those moments, I was able to find the resolution to my irritable Father’s Day.
And it was certainly better than a f’n lawn mower.
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